Former Irish players get their shot at NFL Pro Day

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The NFL descended upon South Bend Thursday, with 14 former Notre Dame football players working out for NFL brass. The Irish’s draft eligible prospects went through a day of drills and testing in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams. Also working out with the current crop of Irish players were Robby Toma and Mike Golic, members of the 2012 Irish looking to get picked up in free agency.

While nine Irish players were invited to workout at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, veterans Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Tommy Rees, Kona Schwenke and Nick Tausch had their first chance to show their abilities to prospective employers. It appears that for the most part that opportunity was captured.

If there was a winner in today’s proceedings, it’d have to be Dan Fox. In his first appearance for scouts, Fox ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, a number that would’ve ranked third best among linebackers at the Combine. Measuring in at 6’2-5/8″ and 233 pounds, Fox ran a 4.31 shuttle time, a number that bested George Atkinson’s time and was just a fraction of a second off of TJ Jones’ 4.27 from the combine. Fox is the type of sideline to sideline athlete that could temp defenses looking to upgrade the athleticism against the pass and also find a special teams contributor.

Carlo Calabrese also showed off better than expected athleticism. Weighing in at a sleek 236 pounds, Calabrese ran a 4.86 40-yard dash, a number that had to surprise more than a few Irish fans. Expect to see Calabrese in an NFL training camp.

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Kona Schwenke solidified his case as the sleeper of the group, running a 4.88 40-yard dash at 285 pounds. Schwenke looked athletic in every testing event, the type of versatility on a big-bodied player that will give him a chance to catch on with a franchise.

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Several Irish players that participated at the combine didn’t re-test. TJ Jones stood pat with his 4.48 electronic 40 time. Troy Niklas didn’t test either. Stephon Tuitt was in South Bend, but had a boot on his foot after an injury was revealed at the Combine.

Louis Nix was active in drills and also ran the 40. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin kept a close eye on Nix, a potential anchor for the interior of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. Helping his stock was Bennett Jackson, who improved his 40 time with a blazing 4.40, improving from a 4.51 in Indianapolis.

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Last but not least, Tommy Rees stated his case to make an NFL roster. While Rees didn’t break the five-second barrier in the 40 (he ran a 5.08), he completed 32 of 34 passes to receivers, with one drop. Rees’ 31-inch vertical leap would’ve bested Teddy Bridgewater, Taj Boyd, Stephen Morris and Jordan Lynch.

(Who saw that one coming?)

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